6 Signs You Are Limiting Yourself
Do you feel stuck in your life? Are you lacking in inspiration or feeling confused about what you want to do on this planet? Do you find yourself in your head a lot and find it difficult to take action or to really make progress toward your goals?
When you are stuck it often means that you are limiting yourself in some way. Maybe you believe that you are not capable of something because of shame or low self-esteem. Or it can be a result of messages you got from your parents or from traumatic experiences you went through. You might also be afraid to take the risks necessary to fulfill your dreams.
Here are some signs you are limiting yourself:
- You don’t feel challenged. Are you staying in a job you don’t like because going for the promotion or career change feels too intimidating? When you stay in your comfort zone most of the time, you are not growing very quickly, if at all. Becoming your best requires doing things that are uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Avoiding the discomfort that arise when you try new things and challenge yourself is a big way of limiting yourself. If you can learn to see that kind of discomfort as a sign you are growing, it can be easier to tolerate.
- You are bored. Boredom can feel like a black hole in which nothing seems interesting. One of the best ways to get out of boredom is to become aware and curious about the feeling of boredom. Notice that it is just a feeling like any other. Then you can use the feeling as information that you need to start moving and creating something. After all, it is nearly impossible to feel bored when you are being challenged and working toward big things! See my blog post on Cultivating Inspiration When You’re Feeling Stale.
- You feel anxious for no particular reason. Now, there are many reasons you might feel anxious. One possible reason is that there is a big difference between what you want from your life and where you currently are. When you know it’s time to make a change but don’t jump in and take a risk, you are left with anxiety. This particular anxiety can feel like being on the edge of a cliff. It is a feeling that you are not where you want to be and not moving in that direction. This anxiety can often be resolved simply by taking some first steps toward making the necessary changes in your life.
- You tell yourself you can’t do something you really want to do. This point is more about your thoughts. If you are continuously having thoughts telling you can’t do something, over time you will start to believe it. Mindfulness practices can be very helpful with this because they make us more aware of our thoughts. When we are aware of the thoughts that arise, we have the choice not to believe them so much. We can then replace those thoughts with more productive ones such as how are you going to do what you most want to in life?
- You feel depressed. Depression can have a variety of causes. It is often caused by avoidance of painful feelings. It can often be caused by trauma as well. In some cases it comes from feeling a lack of purpose in your life. In any case depression limits you. When you are depressed it is highly unlikely that you are doing your best work in the world! Working toward a goal or cause can be great way to break out of depression.
- Shame. This is a big one. Shame (low self-esteem, or self-worth) is based in a deep core belief that you are not good enough. This is different than guilt, which is feeling bad about something you have done. Shame is a belief and a feeling that you are bad as a person/being. When you feel this way you don’t manifest your potential because you don’t believe you are capable of it. Shame is one of the most important feelings to work on in therapy or groups because it can be difficult to gain perspective on and work through on your own.
Why do we limit ourselves?
We usually learn to limit ourselves as a way of staying safe or comfortable in the world. I often find myself working with people who are no longer satisfied with staying safe and comfortable and want to be something bigger and more fully alive. On the other hand, sometimes we really need to feel safer in our lives in order to become a more whole. My job as a therapist is to help you find the middle ground, where you are feeling safe enough to move into unknown territory, but not so safe that you don’t make progress. There are many ways to know when to move forward and when to feel safer.
As you start to explore the feelings that come up when you imagine yourselves taking new risks, you will probably uncover a variety of beliefs about yourself and the way the world works. For example, you might discover that you don’t believe you deserve the new job or partner or whatever it is that you want. You might learn that you don’t believe you should have what you want because of our culture, gender, social or economic class or your upbringing.
When you feel stuck, one thing to do is simply take this as information. When you get closer to making a change, the feelings tend to polarize. You think about making a change or doing something different and you feel excited. Then when you don’t make a change you feel even more strongly bored and frustrated. This pattern can swing back and forth like a pendulum as you build up enough energy to actually take a risk and change.
Limiting yourself is not a problem!
We all limit ourselves. In reality there is always some force in us that wants to take risks and try new things, and expand into bigger things in our lives. And there is always another force that wants to stay safe by not shaking things up. Taking risks all the time without regard for safety is obviously not something to strive for, and always staying in our comfort zone will keep us from growing and expanding.
Find the edge where these two forces meet in you and gently move in the direction you want to go. Feeling shaky is natural and a sign that you are growing!
If you live in the Denver area feel free to contact me for a consultation to determine whether you are a good fit to work with me in counseling.